It might seem a bit odd for someone who has been writing almost nonstop since 1995, but I have not owned a desk in a very long time. The last desk I owned was one that I purchased either at Savers or Goodwill for about $20 in the summer of 2010. It was a small “modern” desk which was aesthetically ideal for the swanky 1960s condo I had just purchased at the time. Prior to that I worked from a $20 folding table that I purchased at Target. It was not a proper desk but functioned as one anyway. About 3 years ago,my ex-girlfriend and I decided that I should really have a desk…
Fast forward to the other night when I was skateboarding around Old Town Scottsdale. I made the obligatory trip to TJ Maxx to see if they had any Original Penguin, Tommy Hilwigger or Nautica longsleeve t-shirts. They did not, but I did however, spot a modest wooden desk in the furniture section. The first thing that I had to consider while I was contemplating purchasing the desk was whether I could picture Jim Rockford (of The Rockford Files) sitting at a desk like this (would this look good in Rockford’s trailer or a late 1970s apartment? etc) . I determined the answer was yes on both counts. However, I hesitated, because I had no way to transport the desk. I was nowhere near home, and I only had my skateboard. My car wasn’t even in the lot. I had parked miles away so I could just skate around. Even if I had my car, the desk probably would not fit in it. My love for 90s and early 2000s commuter cars is well known, but in situations like these, their limitations present challenges. Additionally, I wanted to ask my ex-girlfriend her opinion on whether she thought I should buy the desk, especially since the purchase would be made on her credit card (even though I knew she wouldn’t care).
I went home and almost immediately regretted not buying the desk. When I discussed it with my ex-girlfriend, she encouraged me to buy it. She said it was a fair price, and that I had been needing a desk for years. I decided that I would go back in a day or two, and in the unlikely event that it was still there, I would buy the desk.
When I returned two evenings later, I did not expect the desk to still be there. Whenever there is something cool at an outlet store, it sells pretty quickly. You usually get maybe one or two chances, and then it’s gone. To my surprise, the desk was still there. I lifted it to see how heavy it was. It was just light enough that I could carry it but still heavy enough that I knew it would be taxing to carry for any great distance. Realizing the massive undertaking it would take to “fit” the desk into my car, get it home and carry it up multiple flights of stairs by myself, I briefly hesitated again. After some encouragement from my ex-girlfriend over text, I decided to go for it. Rather than contemplate the unlikely physics of how this desk was possibly going to fit in my car, I determined it would be better to just let the TJ Maxx employees figure it out. Attempting to cram it in there on my own would have resulted in something akin to a Pink Pantheresque Peter Sellers skit. It took the workers about 20 minutes of brainstorming, teamwork, trial and error, but somehow they managed to squeeze it in there. As I drove away though , I came to the realization that it would be almost impossible to get the desk out when I arrived home. I was right.
When I pulled into my parking spot, I got out of the car and opened the back door. The desk was wedged in the car so tightly, that it simply would not budge. I didn’t have the benefit of having extra people helping to hold one end and push here and pull there. I was on my own, and there was just no way I would be able to get the desk out without damaging it. I considered getting a screwdriver and temporarily taking it apart, but I didn’t believe that would work, since it was packed in too tightly to remove the legs even if I were to unscrew them. In any case, that would be a last resort.
I had another idea. Since there were other HomeGoods and TJ Maxx locations (they’re both owned by the same company) near my house, I decided to go there and see if I could get them to remove the desk from my car, figuring at that point I could just commando it and carry the desk home, grueling as the ordeal would be. So I went to the HomeGoods store and after explaining the situation, a few employees agreed to help me remove the desk from my car. For a while, it seemed as though they would be unable to get it out, for they too had no idea how anyone could have maneuvered the desk in there in the first place. It took four of these HomeGoods employees working together, but finally they managed to extract it. To my shock, the desk did not even have a scratch on it. One of the employees then suggested that I call a friend with a larger vehicle to help me transport it home, to which I responded plainly and politely, “I have no friends.”
“I felt that,” she replied empathetically. It was mostly true though. The kind of friends I would have called upon to assist me in these situations had long ago cut ties with me over my writings and political views. There are simply none of these people left, at least not within a few hundred miles. Only true-believer exes and casual acquaintances remain.
After all this, it wasn’t even over yet. I still had to carry the desk home. When I was young and living in Los Angeles, I was somewhat known for my tenacity and “resilient” way of living, always just barely scraping by. In retrospect, I was just another lowlife with a cause. Now that I’m much older and more cynical, I didn’t really know if I would still be capable this sort of cumbersome caper. I picked up the desk, which still didn’t seem too heavy but was awkward to hold, and started walking. The streetlights weren’t working for some reason, so it was almost pitch black. Every 50 feet or so I had to set the desk down for a second, take a quick break and readjust my grip.
When I got to my apartments I was exhausted. I could feel my lower abdominal muscles straining on one side, as if I was tempting fate and about to acquire a hernia. Of course, I wasn’t finished yet. I still had to carry the desk up a few flights of stairs. It was by sheer will and determination that I managed to carry the desk up the rest of the way to my apartment, an act of personal heroism. Not “heroic” in the sense that I was doing anything particularly noble or that would even be difficult for the average person to accomplish, but rather the satisfying realization that I was still capable of mustering the kind of relentless spirit, resourcefulness and drive that defined my misguidedly ambitious youth. “Yes!” I thought to myself as I arrived at the blue door to my apartment. “I didn’t know I still had it in me. Maybe, I haven’t completely given up yet.” However, I still need to buy a chair.